The sky above Crucifixion Hill began to get dark. For those paying attention, this seemed somewhat strange. At the sixth hour, the sun should be at its brightest. If a spring storm was coming in they should have been able to notice it coming in. This was different. The whole sky was getting progressively darker by the second. The crowd’s attention was diverted from the heartrending scene of Jesus on the cross, to what was happening above them.
From the various groups could be heard the same observations and questions. “Must be a storm coming. I’ve never seen the sky look like that before. Why are all the birds flying around like that, Father?” And it just got darker and darker.
The sphere of the sun had completely disappeared, but no distinguishing signs of clouds that would hide it could be seen.
Parents and the few children that were present clung tightly to each other. The adults began to braced themselves for what experience had taught them would surely be a strong gust of cold wind. The air not only lost its light but it became heavy. Soon there was total blackness, a blackness that was so deep that nothing could be seen through it. Its weight was enough to press people to their knees. It was full of evil. Some gasped for more of the air that couldn’t satisfy their lungs. Instead of the expected coolness it became progressively warmer.
People tried to cry out from their unseen fear but their inward groaning stayed inside, for nothing could come out of their mouths. No noise could be heard anywhere. In their fright the people waited for their eyes to adjust to the darkness but all they saw was black. Some tried to escape by walking away, but their legs wouldn’t work. The only thing they were left with was the evil of the past that was deep in the hell of their innermost beings.
The minds of the people alternated from short moments of lucidity to memories of the worse evil that they had thought or had ever done. Sin was in the air so thick that if people could move their arms they could have reached out and grabbed it with their hands. Some visualized atrocities from the ages past that they couldn’t comprehend.
Some old men were besieged with memories of things they had done to their long departed parents. The memories of unconfessed infidelity exploded in the minds of both men and women. The religious teachers were brought to their knees by all the secret transgressions that they were sure that they had gotten away with and had been long forgotten.
Rich men were tormented with the transactions that they had conducted that had taken advantage of their fellow man. Children struggled with the lies that they had told their parents. Those who were crippled had heads full of the wickedness that they had wished on the ones who weren’t sympathetic to their infirmities.
Soldiers saw the haunting faces of those that they had given no mercy in battle. Several of the disciples were plagued by their blind ambitions in what they thought was going to be the kingdom to come. Priests felt the weight of privileges they had given the rich and their ambivalence toward the poor.
In the few moments when he wasn’t being tormented by his role in the torturing of Jesus, the captain of the guard was worried that Jesus’ followers would try to rescue him in this darkness. He wanted to give orders to find some torches and take up a defensive position but he couldn’t make his mouth move to give the orders. And then his mind would go back to being consumed by his past evils.
The tax collectors had visions of the people they had crushed by the heavy taxes they had collected from the powerless. The two men hanging next to Jesus felt the weight of their good families that they had disgraced. The women who had surrounded Jesus’ ministry fought with the demons of jealously that they had as they had tried to be Jesus’ favorite. The ones who had been physically healed were plagued with the guilt of not having compassion for the ones who were still ailing.
The evil that was present for those three hours came because all the sins of the world, past and future, were coming to rest on the shoulders of the broken body of Christ.
This had been the plan from the beginning of time. God knew when he gave free choice to his creation that mankind would chose evil. The choosing of evil always has penalties; individual humans would pay for the sin in their lives in many different ways. This sin was going to create a barrier between man and the perfect Creator. Like opposite poles of a magnet when they come next to each other, they push apart, sin and perfect God can’t co-exist. For a time, God was going to allow man to approach him through a contrite heart, and the substitute sacrifice of an animal. But this was just to pave the way for the coming perfect sacrifice, part of God himself, Jesus.
And so for those three hours Satan and his subordinates with great joy heaped all the sins of mankind, past and future on the broken body of Jesus. When he died, a great shout of elation came from the depths of Hell. Evil had won! The long campaign of Satan for the rule of man had ended. Victory could be proclaimed.
And then there was Light!
The sudden appearance of the sun caused everyone to cry out with pain and instinctively cover their eyes.
While the crowd was recovering their senses, they heard Jesus cry out in a loud voice, “My God why have you abandoned me?” There was confusion in what he said. Some thought he was crying out to Elijah for help. Furis the Captain of the Roman guard thought he was thirsty. He took a sponge soaked in cheap wine, put in on a stick and offered it up to him.
With everyone paying attention, Jesus once again cried out, “It is finished,” and with that he breathed no more. The women began to wail and flailed with their arms. Men openly wept.
Nature itself began to convulse. The earth shook with such violence that most of the assembled were thrown to the ground. The rocks that Zacchaeus had claimed for a perch split into pieces. Men, woman and children cried out, screaming to God for mercy. Many wondered if the world was coming to an end. After what their bodies had been through in the last three hours, many laid on the ground praying the demise of the earth would come quickly. The soldiers glanced up at the crosses to see if they remained upright.
Furius the Roman soldier who had taken such a delight in the torture of Jesus, picked himself off the ground and exclaimed, “This had to be the Son of God!” Others who had gambled for his clothes mused, what have we done? This question was echoed by more than a few of the orchestraters of the whole affair.
As time moved on, small groups silently drifted from the scene. His closest followers could not bring themselves to abandon him.
A man came up the hill to report that strange things were happening in the city. During the earthquake, the few that were in the temple saw that the large cloth curtain that separated the inner court from the sacred Holy of Holies had been torn from top to bottom. A gasp went up from the people as they glance into this forbidden space and then quickly looked away. Even more shocking was during the earthquake; people who had died recently had come walking out of their now open tombs.
As evening approached for the start of the most holy observance, the Passover, the Jewish leaders were concerned that the bodies of the crucified were going to desecrate their observance. They implored Pilate to put a quick end to their lives, so the bodies could be taken down. Unwilling to aggravate these agitators, he reluctantly gave into their demands. What good was a crucifixion if the criminals didn’t suffer for days, he thought?
The soldiers were only too happy to carry out the orders. Now they weren’t going to be stuck out there on the barren hillside for days. In one last act of Roman cruelty, instead of ending the lives of the poor souls quickly with a thrust of the their swords, they hit them with a broadside just above the ankles, breaking the legs. Now they would soon suffocate because their useless legs could no longer push off on the block to gasp for air.
When they came to Jesus it was apparent that he was already dead. His skin had turned gray and stiffness had set in. Just to make sure, one of the soldiers thrust his spear up into his side. He never flinched; a small amount of water and blood came out of the wound.
Not wanting Jesus’ body to be thrown in a common grave, Joseph had already asked Pilate to take the body to the tomb he had quickly arranged to purchase. Under the pressure of the upcoming sundown, his body was quickly taken down and hurried to the sepulcher. He and Nicodemus did the best they could preparing the body for a proper burial.
Most people went on their way, not comprehending what they had just witnessed. They didn’t realize it, but they had seen the only perfect being to ever walk on the face of the earth. not only die for their own past and future sins, but for all of humanity’s. But for many they couldn’t get past that many of their own dreams had been smashed that day.
Some left fearful for their own lives. Would they be next? they asked themselves. Many questioned everything they believed. If they were so mistaken that Jesus was divine and therefore all-powerful, then everything else they had put their trust in could be wrong.
So they went to their homes to begin the Passover feast, a celebration in which the all-powerful God had directly intervened in the lives of the people he loved. Some questioned whether God cared anymore, or was he incapable to do anything.
With the fading light the most dreadful six hours in the history of the world came to a close. The Son of Man, the Light of the World, was extinguished, OR SO IT SEEMED!
Matt. 27 Mark 16 Luke 23 John 19
- Do you think your individual sins were heaped on Christ shoulders during the darkness?
- What is the significance of the veil being torn?
- Have you ever been to the point where you questioned everything you ever believed in?